2017 DUCATI MULTISTRADA 950 FIRST RIDE REVIEW

Ducati’s new Multistrada 950 is a delicious idea. It takes Ducati’s idea of a road-biased, sporty adventure tourer to a friendlier, more affordable space. What makes it the Ducati Multistrada 950 even more tantalising is the fact that it’s price in India neatly splits the popular four-bike Triumph Tiger 800 range in half. The Ducati Multistrada 950 also represents a change of direction for the adventure class which was full of much larger machines until very recently.

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Manufacturers are making adventure tourers smaller and lighter to make them more accessible. The Kawasaki Versys 650 and the Triumph Tiger 800 are perhaps the biggest drivers of the downward displacement trend in the adv market. And now Ducati wants in on the action. The Multistrada 950’s story begins with the bigger 1200cc Multi and it scales that Ducati down. Ducati’s 950 is a Multistrada that’s not only lighter and smaller but also less powerful to make it easier for less experienced bikers. We spent a day in the saddle to tell you how it is.

Design
Unsurprisingly, the Multistrada 950 looks identical to the 1200. You get the same beak-like nose, twin headlights, fairing and adjustable flyscreen. It doesn’t get the fancy LED headlights from the 1200S and the beak is finished in matte black. The 950 also misses out on the single-sided swingarm, while the chassis is almost identical to the off-road biased Multistrada Enduro. That’s the reason why the 950’s wheelbase is significantly longer than the 1200’s at 1,594mm (1200’s stands at 1,530mm).

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As opposed to the 1200’s 17-inch front wheel the 950 uses a 19-inch front wheel, again the same as the Enduro, though the rear is a 17-inch unit. The clocks are the same as the standard Multistrada 1200, a monochrome LCD display. The exhaust is new and sleeker looking, and the rear tyre narrower at 170mm, though the tail piece is the same. It is not easy to distinguish the 950 from the bigger 1200 from a distance which is a good thing, as it carries the same full-blooded Italian aura as its elder sibling.

Engine

The Hypermotard/Supersport’s 937cc, liquid-cooled 90-degree twin performs duty here. The idea was to make the 950 more affordable apart from making it smaller and less powerful, and this engine is a simple unit sans the 1200’s exotic tech like DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing). It produces 113PS and 96Nm which is notably higher than its arch rival, the Triumph Tiger 800’s 95PS and 79Nm.

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The engine has a slight vibration at low revs which smoothens out past 3000rpm, which is also where the engine offers you its full wealth, allowing you to accelerate rapidly. I reckon the Multistrada 950 will hit 100kmph in just under 4 seconds, given its kerb weight of 229kg as compared to the 1200’s weight of 235kg, which hits 100kmph in about three and half seconds. The bike accelerates well past 150kmph seamlessly, and should have no trouble sitting at over 120kmph all day, making it an ideal mile muncher.

Rapid progress in traffic is a breeze thanks to the engine’s punchy, quick to rev nature and I’ve no doubts that the 950 will prove to be a ludicrously worthy commuter. Gear ratios are well chosen and the shifts are light and precise.

Electronics

The 950 gets the same Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro modes as the bigger Multistrada. Sport and Touring offer the full 113PS, while Urban and Enduro reduce output to 75PS. The switchgear is different from the 1200’s, and is a simpler affair. Switches are not as premium but do their job well.

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It also gets switchable 8-level traction control and 3-mode ABS but misses out on wheelie control. No fancy suspension of course, so the modes do not change preload or suspension settings.

Ride and handling

The Ducati Multistrada 950 feels more streetbike than adventure tourer on the road. The riding position has you seated upright while you rest your feet on the slightly rearset footpegs. This makes it engaging to ride hard, be it around corners or through traffic. There’s a sense of agility despite the bike being reasonably large. Putting both feet down shouldn’t be an issue for most riders given the fixed saddle height of 840mm. You could also opt for the adjustable seat, which can lower or raise seat height by 20mm. The 19-inch front wheel is communicative, and on the whole the Multi 950’s dynamics and punchy motor together make it a lot of fun to ride fast.

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Credit for that also goes to the well-sorted suspension (adjustable, but non-electronic) and the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres. The suspension is firm but soaks in bumps and potholes without unsettling the bike. We couldn’t take the bike off tarmac, but on it the Multistrada 950 is very impressive. It is impressive as a machine for riding to work daily and going out on long rides, with or without pillion. A dash of dirt roads shouldn’t be a hitch for it either.

Verdict

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The Multistrada 950 stays true to its assigned role, that of being a multipurpose adventure tourer in a package that’s smaller, lighter and equally capable. At the same time, it doesn’t skimp out on the pizzazz of its elder sibling. It comes across as a worthy buy if in the market for an adventure tourer that doesn’t call for Herculean skills to ride. For ?14.50 lakh on-road Delhi the Ducati Multistrada 950 is good value, especially compared to the Tiger. But, we feel the whole class could stand to have a slightly lower price.

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